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The Fourteenth Annual Cinéfranco Film Festival

Directed by Marc Fitoussi

Copacabana casts Isabelle Huppert as Babou - an impulsive and carefree figure whose flighty personality has created a rift between her and her daughter (Lolita Chammah's Esmeralda). After Esmeralda forbids Babou from attending her wedding, Babou heads to Belgium to sell time-sharing flats by the seaside and subsequently begins to make both money and friends (and enemies). Filmmaker Marc Fitoussi has infused Copacabana with a seriously deliberate pace that is, at the outset, exacerbated by the episodic bent of his screenplay, as the writer/director generally emphasizes the day-to-day exploits of the central character - with the viewer's interest initially held by Huppert's surprisingly captivating performance. (It's become an all-too-rare occurrence for the actress to tackle a character that's this far outside of her usual sardonic, bitter persona.) The entertaining yet far-from-engrossing atmosphere is generally sustained from beginning to end, although, to be fair, the film does improve slightly once Babou arrives in Belgium - as Fitoussi slowly-but-surely starts to stress elements of an inherently compelling nature (ie Babou's relationship with her bitchy roommate, Babou's attempts at reconciling with her daughter, etc). By the time the incongruously uplifting finale rolls around, Copacabana has certainly established itself as an odd, consistently watchable drama that benefits substantially from Huppert's unexpectedly strong turn as the off-kilter protagonist.

out of

2 fois une femme
Directed by François Delisle

Well intentioned yet utterly, hopelessly dull, 2 fois une femme follows Evelyne Rompré's Catherine as she and her teenage son (Étienne Laforge's Leo) escape from her abusive husband (Marc Béland's Bruno) - with the film subsequently detailing the pair's ongoing efforts at adjusting to their new lives. It's a promising setup that's squandered virtually from the word go by filmmaker François Delisle, with the writer/director's refusal (or inability) to draw the viewer into the proceedings proving disastrous - as there's simply never a point at which either of the central characters become compelling enough to warrant the film's excessively deliberate pace. Delisle's ongoing reliance on elements of an unreasonably ostentatious nature - ie a shot of random scenery is accompanied by laughably "poetic" narration - only exacerbates the pervasively uninvolving atmosphere, and there's little doubt that the movie, for the most part, feels like a 10-minute short that's been ineptly expanded to feature length. (The aggressively overlong vibe is compounded by the continued inclusion of mind-numbingly dull stand-alone interludes, with the thoroughly tedious sequence revolving around Leo's trip to the grocery store certainly standing as an emblamatic example of everything that's wrong with the film.) It is, as a result, impossible to work up the slightest bit of interest or sympathy in the protagonists' exploits, which ultimately ensures that 2 fois une femme comes off as a consistently flat piece of work that hardly packs the emotional punch that Delisle has clearly intended.

out of

Directed by Gustave Kervern and Benoît Delépine

Starring Gerard Depardieu, Mammuth follows a dimwitted retiree (Depardieu's Serge) as he embarks on a road trip to collect paperwork from his many former employers - with Serge's journey inevitably complicated by a variety of outside sources. There's little doubt that Mammuth starts out with a great deal of promise, as filmmakers Gustave Kervern and Benoît Delépine's decision to emphasize the protagonist's low-key exploits ensures that the movie boasts the feel of a subdued character study - with this vibe heightened by Depardieu's typically engrossing turn as the long-haired and oddly likable hero. It is, as such, initially rather easy to overlook the inclusion of needlessly oddball elements - ie Serge encounters a dead body while on a routine shopping trip - yet there inevitably reaches a point at which Kervern and Delépine effectively throw reality out the window and transform Mammuth into an exhaustingly surreal comedy. As such, the movie grows more and more grating as time progresses - with the sketch-like structure of the midsection only exacerbating the film's astonishingly uninvolving atmosphere. It's impossible to discern just what's meant to be entertaining about all of this, as Depardieu's character is thrown into one aggressively (and annoyingly) off-kilter scenario after another. (And this is to say nothing of Isabelle Adjani's ongoing appearances as Serge's dead girlfriend.) The end result is a colossal waste of time that is, in the final analysis, just worthless on every single level, which is a shame, really, given the potential of both the movie's setup and Depardieu's performance.

no stars out of

2 Frogs dans l'Ouest
Directed by Dany Papineau

Directed by Dany Papineau, 2 Frogs dans l'Ouest follows twentysomething Quebecer Marie Deschamps (Mirianne Brulé) as she drops out of school and embarks on a journey to British Columbia - where Marie hopes to find work at a posh ski resort. There's little doubt that 2 Frogs dans l'Ouest fares best in its opening half hour, as first-time filmmaker Papineau offers up an engrossing (and thoroughly promising) montage of Marie's journey through Canada - with the effectiveness of this stretch heightened by both Christian Bégin's captivating cinematography and Marie's wanderlust-centric narration. The compelling atmosphere persists right up until Marie arrives in Whistler, after which point the movie dwells almost exclusively on the protagonist's aimless misadventures in the small town (ie Marie attempts to find work, Marie starts making friends, etc, etc). Exacerbating the film's progressively uninvolving feel is Papineau's reliance on elements of a decidedly inauthentic nature, with Marie's decision to get stoned during her first shift at a coveted job certainly standing as the most obvious (and lamentable) example of this. (And this is to say nothing of Marie's inexplicable decision to remain friends with a guy who attempted to date rape her on her first night in town.) There is, as a result, simply no denying that 2 Frogs dans l'Ouest's pervasively affable vibe is rendered moot by Papineau's less-than-subtle modus operandi, which is a shame, really, given that the movie does possess a striking visual sensibility and a terrific lead performance from Brulé.

out of

© David Nusair